A Florida man who breached the US Senate chamber carrying a ‘Trump 2020’ campaign flag was sentenced today to eight months in prison, making him the first among hundreds of accused rioters facing prosecution to be incarcerated.
Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, apologized and said he was ashamed of his actions on January 6. Speaking calmly from a prepared statement, he described being caught up in the euphoria as he walked down Washington’s most famous avenue, then followed a crowd of hundreds up Capitol Hill and into the Capitol building.
‘If I had any idea that the protest … would escalate [the way] it did … I would never have ventured farther than the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue,’ Hodgkins told the judge. He added: ‘This was a foolish decision on my part.’
Prosecutors had asked for Hodgkins to serve 18 months behind bars, saying in a recent filing that he, ‘like each rioter, contributed to the collective threat to democracy’ by forcing lawmakers to temporarily abandon their certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over President Donald Trump and to scramble for shelter from incoming mobs.
Assistant US Attorney Mona Sedky said that, while Hodgkins didn’t engage in violence himself, he walked among many who did — in what she called ‘the ransacking of the People’s House.” And as he walked by smashed police barriers, he could see the smoke of tear gas and the chaos ahead of him.
‘What does he do?’ she asked the court. ‘He walks toward it. He doesn’t walk away.’
She added that Hodgkins was in the midst of a mob that forced lawmakers to seek shelter and some congressional staffers to hide in fear, locked in officers as hundreds swept through the building. Those in fear for their lives that day will, she said, ‘bear emotional scars for many years — if not forever.’
In pronouncing the sentence, Judge Randolph Moss said that Hodgkins had played a role, if not as significant as others, in one of the worst episodes in American history. Still he chose to give Hodgkins a year less in prison.
‘That was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a protest,’ Moss said. ‘It was … an assault on democracy.’ He added: ‘It left a stain that will remain on us … on the country for years to come.’
Addressing thee defendant directly, Moss said: ‘Although you were only one member of a larger mob, you actively participated in a larger event that threatened the Capitol and democracy itself.
‘The damage that was caused that way was way beyond a several-hour delay of the vote certification. It is a damage that will persist in this country for several decades.’
Hodgkins’ sentencing could set the bar for punishments of hundreds of other defendants as they decide whether to accept plea deals or go to trial.
He and others are accused of serious crimes but were not indicted, as some others were, for roles in larger conspiracies.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Hodgkins pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing an official proceeding, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop lesser charges, including entering a restricted building and disorderly conduct.
Video footage shows Hodgkins wearing a ‘Trump 2020’ T-shirt, the flag flung over his shoulder and eye goggles around his neck, inside the Senate. He took a selfie with a self-described shaman in a horned helmet and other rioters on the dais behind him.
His lawyer pleaded with Judge Randolph Moss to spare his client time in prison, saying the shame that will attach to Hodgkins for the rest of his life should be factored in as punishment.
The lawyer argued in court papers that Hodgkins’ actions weren’t markedly different from those of Anna Morgan Lloyd — other than Hodgkins stepping onto the Senate floor.
The 49-year-old from Indiana was the first of roughly 500 arrested to be sentenced. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and last month was sentenced to three years of probation.
Hodgkins was never accused of assaulting anyone or damaging property. And prosecutors said he deserves some leniency for taking responsibility almost immediately and pleading guilty to the obstruction charge.
But prosecutors also noted how he boarded a bus in his hometown of Tampa bound for a January 6 Trump rally carrying rope, protective goggles and latex gloves in a backpack — saying that demonstrated he came to Washington prepared for violence.
Hodgkins remained in the Senate chamber for 15 minutes and snapped a selfie, which later went viral.
‘I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly remorseful and regretful for my actions, not because I face consequences but because of the damage that day’s incident caused and the way this country that I love has been hurt,’ the Florida man said during his sentencing.